UI Human Rights Center celebrates 15th anniversary


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Since its inception in 1999, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights has worked to serve the Iowa City community.

The center, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, will hold a celebration on Saturday.

Currently, the center’s latest project is One Community One Book, which has been around for several years. It is a community-wide project that annually runs from the middle of September through the middle of November to encourage people to read selected books.

The center also works on organizing public lecture series on human-rights challenges around the world and providing funding and support for students to pursue human-rights internships around the world, said Amy Weismann, assistant director of the center.

Center director Adrien Wing said she has been with the group since its founding and that it is currently in its best position since then.

“Our biggest struggle was that the university wanted us to be housed on campus,” Wing said. “So the college of Law became its academic home.”

UI Law Dean Gail Agrawal said the law school seeks to provide security and a solid platform for the UICHR to expand.

She said she approached the Provost Office when the center was in flux and proposed to house it in the law school.

“Students help us by providing hundreds of hours of service for the Center,” Wing said. “We have enough staff and students helping us, so I can tell we’re going to have a bright future ahead of us.”

Agrawal said she views this anniversary as an integral opportunity for the university and its students from an academic point of view. “I hope that students get the opportunity to work with this group and that they can benefit from the experience.”

Law Professor Emeritus Burns Weston said the center has seen great improvement since he founded the group.

“It’s been a work in progress,” he said. “It took a lot of work to get the administration to take us seriously at first.”

Weston said through all of the challenges the center has faced in the past 15 years, he has always seen strong, enthusiastic support from students.

“I was a director for about five to six years, and if there’s anything I’ve noticed, it’s that these people really volunteer in many ways,” he said.

Weston said unlike at the beginning, the center has seen strong support from the administration over the past 15 years.

“We started out from scratch, and we made progress,” he said. “There was a period when we were really treading water, but that all changed once we were housed by the College of Law.”

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